Farm-scale adaptation and vulnerability to environmental stresses: Insights from winegrowing in Northern California
Nicholas, Kimberly A. | Durham, William H.
The wine industry is increasingly recognized as especially vulnerable to climate change due to the climate sensitivity of both winegrape yields and quality, making it an important model system for the agricultural impacts of global changes. However, agricultural production is strongly influenced by the management decisions of growers, including their practices to modify the microclimate experienced by the growing crop; these adaptations have not been studied at the vineyard level, where managers on the ground are on the front lines of responding to global change. We conducted 20 in-depth interviews with winegrowers to examine farm-scale adaptive responses to environmental stresses, to understand the views and motivations of agricultural managers, and to explore adaptive capacity in practice. We found that growers tend to respond to stresses individually rather than collectively, except when facing severe, unfamiliar pests and diseases. Responses may be reactive or anticipatory; most anticipatory strategies have been short-term, in response to imminent threats. Growers tend to rely on their own experience to guide their management decisions, which may offer poor guidance under novel climate regimes. From using a Vulnerability Scoping Diagram, we find that changing exposure (vineyard location) and sensitivity (planting choices such as vine variety) have the biggest impact on reducing vulnerability, but that adaptations in growing or processing the crop in the vineyard and winery are easier to implement, much more commonly undertaken, and may also offer substantial adaptive capacity. Understanding the context of adaptations, as well as the decision-making processes motivating them, is important for understanding responses to global change. These findings highlight some innovations in adapting to global change, as well as some of the barriers, and point to the need for strategic investments to enhance agricultural resilience to climate change. In particular, strategies to enhance both effective and easy to implement farming adaptations, as well as broader-scale anticipatory, collective responses, could reduce vulnerability in the context of climate change.Show more [+] Less [-]